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Brief History of Korean Architecture


 

-Yoon, Chang Sup (Member,National Academy of Sciences)

-Introduction
-Ancient Architecture(Neolithic~7C.)
-United Silla Architecture(7C.~10C.)
-Koryo Architecture(10C.~14C.)
-Choson Architecture(14C.~19C.)


2.Ancient Architecture


N eolithic remains are relatively abundant in Korea and some remains can be traced back to the fifth millennium B, C. according to archaeological verification. Korean neolithic culture is classified into two different kinds in terms of the potteries which are found with artifacts at remain sites. The early culture is characterized by the comb-pattem pottery and then the later culture is by the burrlished plain pottery with bronze making techniques which started around the seventh century B. C.

The evidence of ondol, the unique Korean floor panel heating system, was found at the remains of the burnished plain pottery culture and the development of the vertical wall was evident in the primitive houses of this culture. Dolmens, which were primitive tombs of important persons, have been found all over the Korean peninsula. There are two types of dolmens: the southern type, which is rather low, often a simple slab without supporting stones; and the southern type, which is larger and more definite in shape. The distribution of the dolmens would imply some relation to the megalithic cultures of the Western world. In the development of Korean architecture, it can be said that the building technique of houses evolved from a pit dwelling to that of a earthen wall with thatched roof, to that of a log cabin construction, and finally, to a raised floor construction

Ancient Choson came into being in the fourth century B. C, and remained in power until The end of the third centuryA.D. In 109 B. C, the Chinese colony of Nangnang (Lo-lang) was established in the northwest region of Korea. The site of the colony headquarters and tombs are found on the southern bank of the Taedong River near the city of Pyongyang. Offcial buildings were built of wood and brick and roofed with tiles having the features of Chinese construction. The tomb with wooden burial chamber named "The Tomb of the Painted Basket" had single chamber, and contained the personal articles and their treasures of the buried, whereas the brick tombs were multi-chambered with passageway , and generally contained mortuary objects. The bricks were small in size, unlike the large Chinenese variety, and it is beyond doubt that all roof tiles were produced locally. In this is period the Chinese culture was transplanted to Korea and the influence spreaded rapidly throughout the peninsula to furnish a basis for the development of Korean architecture.

Under the catalyzing effect of the Chinese Colony, the cultural development of the ancient states of the "Three Kingdoms took place relatively at the same time, although Koguryo established itself slightly earlier around 37 B. C. After the fell of Nangnang in 3 l 3, Koguryo expanded her territory to included half of Manchuria and all of north Korea, The tombs uf kmgs and aristocrats and some remains of building sites which were located in the capitals of Kogurygo, Kungn ae-song and Pyongyang, represent Koguyro art and architecture. The tombs are of two types. One is more like a stepped pyramid of stone, while the other is a lar ge earth mound form. The building method and details of the tombs express their architectural techniques and skills. The murals of the tomb chambers provide va luable evidence of the manners and customs of the time and exhibit architectural details and a high degree of artistic skill. The tombs and some of remains at th e building sites show that their architects possessed advanced ideas for their t ime and that they understood the use of a variety of building materials and meth ods. Art ancl architecture of Koguryo show vigor, boldness and rusticity, with a hint of nomadic quality.

Paekche was founded in 18B.C. and its territory included the west coast of the Korean peninusula, extending from near the 38th parallel to the southern tip of the peninsula. After the fall of Nangnang, Paekche, on the one hand, established fruitful relationships with South China, and with the emerging imperial clan in Japan on the other. Such strategic positioning allowed Korea to become the transmitter of culture to Japan. Both Koguryo and Paekche adopted Buddhism officially in the late fourth century. Through contacts with contemporary thoughts and religion, these states greatly enriched their culture.

The remains of the building sites and royal tombs are located in the capital of Paekche and in its vicinity. The shapes of bricks and roof tiles that have been discovered at these sites give us more than a glimpse of the taste and refinemen t of the period. The plans of Buddhist temples were characterized by one centra lly located pagoda, entrance gate, main hall, lecture hall and rectangular cloi ster enclosure, all were arranged in a symmetrical layout along the north-south axis. One might refer to the Buddhist Temple of Horyuji in Japan to visualize a similar example of a Paekche temple, because the Iapanese temple partly retains some influence of the architectual style from Paekche.

Several stone pagodas sti11 exist to exhibit the calibre of their architects. The earliest stone Pagoda of the Miruk Temple in Iksan country is of particular interest because it shows the transitional features from a wooden pagoda to a stone one. The pagoda of the Chongyim Temple in Puyo is one of the most beautifull pagoda with its simple dignity, manifesting superb proportions and impressions of massive strength.

The brick Tomb of King Muyong and Number 6 Tomb of Songsanni retained unique features to Korea. The tombs were built with vaulted ceiling and arch construction with bricks which were similar in size and shape to the brick of tombs built in the period of the Laing Dynasty (A.D. 502-587> of southern China. The stone tombs were frequently composed of granite slabs of large size, highly polished and often decorated with paintings, which reveal the influence of Koguryo.

The art and architecture of Paekche had a touch of elegance, refinement and warmth. Paekche, the recipient of influences from continental architecture, assimilated diverse influences and expressed its derivation from Chinese models. Later, important elements of the architectural style of Paekche were transmitted to Japan.

Silla was the last of the three kingdoms to develop a royal governmlent in the sixth century, and her geographical isolation caused a delay in the cultural growth of the kingdom. The capital of Silla, Kyongju, is one of the ancient capitals in the world, which has enjoyed many centuries of prosperity. Four mountain forts, the remains of which can still be seen, protected every side of the city. Buddhism was introduced to the royal family and it was recognized as the state religion in 528. Several famous Buddhist temples were built around the royal capital of Kyongju.

The architecture was we11 developed in the Kingdom and was evident in the remains of Hwangnyong Temple, built in the sixth century as the national temple. The huge wooden pagoda with a height of 225 feet was built at the temple but was destroyed during the Mongol invasion in l229. The pagoda of Punwhang Temple was originally built in nine stories, but now has retained only three of its stories. It was constructed in a curious manner using stone cut into the shape of bricks and hence it was named "Mock-brick pagoda." On each side of the first story of the pagoda, two blind doors made of stone were hung, and the doors were decorated with guardian figures carved in relief with vigorous shape. Chomsongdae, the first stone observatory in Asia, was built during the reign of Oueen Sondok(632-646). It is famous for its unique and elegant form.

The chambers of tombs were heaped with river boulders, and then a great mound of earth was built on top of it, so that the chamber could not be invaded after the burial. In the present century, a number of tombs were excavated, and rich remains of intrinsic value have been discovered. The best known of the tombs are the Gold Crown Tomb, the Golden Be11 Tomb and the Luck Phoenix Tomb. Objects in these tombs present the most inquisitive problem and indicate cultural ties with the arts of Scythians, Sumerians and the later occupants of Southern Russia.

Silla was apparently much more conservative than the other two kingdoms, and preserved its customs, ideas and cultural identity longer than the others. A11 the arts and architectures had qualities of graceful elegance, testifying to the skill and taste of her artists and architects.



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